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Monday, December 29, 2014

The Grateful Complainer

I am having a poopy, poopy day.  Not as poopy as lots of other people I’m sure, but poopy nonetheless.  I just got back from a weekend at my father-in-law’s house - where the company is wonderful (love his sisters and his dad is a sweetie) but the accommodations horrifying.  Picture this, Sicily, 1942….or rather New Jesey, in a house that is circa 1970-something - full of treasures and trinkets.  It used to be piled so high you couldn’t see the floor, or the furniture, or anything larger than a path through the wreckage from the front door to the kitchen.  Here a towering column of old photo's, there a pile of baseballs, yonder a jar of something that looks like large pieces of ginger in a liquid, with roots coming out.  On top of that, a lovely stack of ladies purses, in different shades of sequins.

The siblings take turns cleaning but you can’t clean out the smell of old newspapers and musty carpet that hasn’t seen the light in twenty-odd years.  We are slowly making space (We can see the floor, progress!) so that when we move to Houston, his father can sell the house and move with us into a much smaller in-law suite.  He is 92 and totally amazes me - very smart, still active, doing most of the yard work himself.  But the house…we sleep on the floor on mattress that I could not tell you the age.  I can tell you I take the sheets from my house and my own pillow (although there are 10 stacked in a corner with varying shades of brownish-yellow stains).  What’s wrong with these pillows?  Bill asked me, completely oblivious.  I point out the stains.  He shrugs.  There’s a pillowcase on it, he says.

The only way I sleep at night is to know I washed those sheets myself before we left.  Ellie, thankfully, is young enough to sleep in her crib.  

Bill has no idea how hard it is on me to go there.  I literally feel my skin crawling just thinking of staying there overnight.  One time he dropped the mattress down and a spider crawled out the side and back in again.  BACK IN AGAIN.  I have just recently been able to not totally spaz out and instantly smush any spider I see with the largest shoe I can find.  JUST RECENTLY.  So you can imagine my horror at sleeping on a mattress where I know at least one spider is scurrying around.  I have not once woken up on at least one morning of the stay without some sort of bite or bump.  GAH.

It doesn’t help I am a total GERMAPHOBE.  I am easily icki-fied.  I’m not a great housekeeper but if I can see the dirt, it goes.  I sterilize.  A lot.  I also hate clutter.  The sight of it slips down under my rational brain and picks at my patience like a toddler to a scab.  NEED TO GET RID OF IT.  So the entire time I am there, I try to focus on finding ‘gems’ in the mess so I DON’T GO COMPLETELY INSANE.  I’m writing this so you would think I’d managed it but I’m not so sure.

Breastfeeding these weekends are a nightmare.  I don’t know if its the different food I’m eating, the uncomfortable nursing (we’re on the floor on the mattress) or my stress level but I have to use so much formula on these weekends I worry I’m going to lose my supply.  She is SO FUSSY.  Starts to nurse, then cries almost immediately.  I can usually coax her back for a minute or two but that’s it.  So far she has bounced back when we get back home but I am pumping tonight for sure and for the next few days to make sure it stays up.

We’re not even going to talk about how fun it is to travel with a cranky 8 month old from Virginia to New Jersey.  Used to take five hours, now we make it in 6 or more.  BR-UTAL.  

And then I get a call today from the dermatologist - another mole has ‘atypical cells’ and I need to get more taken off.  That’s two this year.  So, still recuperating from the weekend and I get this news today.  Not only that but they want me in TOMORROW.  That.Is.Never.Good.

I FaceTime with my parents every Monday and today we couldn’t talk, the screen kept freezing.  Being far away sucks.

I read somewhere when you are feeling down, you tend to remember all the bad things in your life, which makes you feel even worse, and then you remember more bad things that happened to you, etc, the cycle continues.  If you can break that cycle by focusing on the positive, your circumstances may remain the same but you’ll feel better about them, and yourself.

  1. Atypical cells don’t mean cancer, and I am getting it taken care of right away.
  2. There are only three more visits left to that house before we move.  After that, Ellie gets to have at least one grandparent close by to love her silly, and I get to enjoy the visits in my clean, new, clutter-less house.
  3. I am seeing my parents in one month and that really isn’t too long to wait.
  4. I just downloaded a new book on my Kindle I get to read tonight.
  5. There is still chocolate cake in the world.  And apple pie.  And Jon Stewart.
  6. I am loved and appreciated even though I complain.  A lot.
  7. Hubbie thinks I’m pretty even when I don’t have make-up on.
  8. Hubbie has really bad eye-sight that will only get worse as he ages.
  9. We have a Roomba that vacuums the bedrooms for me.
  10. Soon Ellie will be crawling, and I can strap mop pads to her knees and she can do the MOPPING for me.  Wheeee!

Life doesn’t get much better than this folks.  I’m a lucky girl.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Flip-Side to Being Wonderful

I have a wonderful husband.  He is kind, thoughtful, crazy-smart, he makes me hot ginger and honey tea FROM SCRATCH when I'm sick.  He emails me at least once a day (usually more) to check in to see how Ellie and I are doing.  He is as devoted a son to his father as he is a father to Ellie.  He sacrifices.  He works hard.  He changes the oil in my truck himself.  He fixes what's broken and loves to do DIY projects around the house.  Really, is there anything this man can't do?  I'm glad you asked.

Now journey with me to the flip side of all this wonderful-ness.  For example, he's a foodie.  Lovely, right?  He cooks better than I do.  Jackpot!  But wait...I'M the one who cooks through the week, as is only fair, as I am home all day with Ellie and he is working outside the home until late in the evening.  Keep in mind mom bought me 'I CAN cook- cooking for dummies...' book when I was TWENTY-SEVEN.  Chicken, rice, and veggies are my go-to meal.  Start the rice cooker, throw some chicken in the oven with some garlic powder, and boil some frozen veggies.  Then, when I don't feel so ambitious, it's frozen pizza, or chicken soup.

Just last night he made this DELICIOUS clam and mushroom dish with pasta and grilled zucchini.  For fun.

It would have tasted better too if I had picked up the WHITE wine instead of the red in my hurry to get home from 'working' at the yoga studio downtown.  'Working' will be explained at another time...

He had to cook the clams in Gin, I think, which still tasted AMAZING.  Just think if I had not screwed up the one thing I was in charge of...this is a typical example of what it is like, being a type B personality (really type C) living with a take-charge super-motivated type A person.  It's exhausting for me and probably consistently bewildering for him.  HIM (Bewildered) "You just watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy all day?  Again?"  
ME (Starting to feel a little judged..) Well, I did FEED Ellie.  And I got dressed.  Well, I got HER dressed....) 

He is bewildered because he would never, could never even IMAGINE wasting a whole day inside watching movies.  Literally cannot conceive of it.  Had not even imagined there were people who could do it, let alone be MARRIED to one.

I am equally bewildered when he insists each knife is for something different.  (THIS one for bread, this one for meat....)  Or when he asks why I need ANOTHER pair of black boots.  (One is low cut, I need high black boots for winter...heeeelllo!?)  I didn't even respond the first time he asked me why he had to get me a CARD for my birthday.  (You're just going to throw it out after...)  Sometimes I think we grew up on different planets.  His was and is 'Planet Logic' and mine was and is 'Planet Why-The-Heck-Not!?'

Alas, I firmly (must) believe we even each other out.  I slow him down, remind him there are more important things to worry about than dishes in the sink.  I make him stop (literally) and look at the pretty Christmas lights.  I make him stop his helter-skelter to-do list once in a while so he can breathe, so he can look around and be grateful for what we have.

He has taught me that sometimes things that seem hard to do, aren't really.  Like making spaghetti sauce from scratch.  Like making sushi at home.  (yep - sushi).  We make each other better people, more well-rounded, more interesting in any case, even if we do bewilder each other from time to time.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sweet Sugary Bliss

I've got some bad habits.  The one I am talking about today is my addiction to sugar.

I tried to quit sugar a couple of months ago,  I bought the sugar-free recipe book, threw out the chocolate syrup, finished off my maple syrup (hey I buy the premium maple syrup!) and even bought Stevia.  And coconut milk to cook with.  And Cocao - which is like cocoa but less processed (and sugar-free).  I proudly made my first (and last) batch of sugar-free granola.


Like wearing a parka in a snowstorm with a huge hole in the back.  Something critical was missing.  Something magical and wonderful and delicious.  I optimistically froze some, and then after about a day of a brutal inner war (or a few hours anyway) I dumped the granola on a big bowl of ice-cream.  With chocolate chips.  And whip cream.  I WISH that were an exaggeration for comedic affect.  Sadly, it is all too true.  So is the fact I bought Toblerone's at Costco 'for Christmas gifts'.  HA.  I am the master of self-deluding lies.  I had a Toblerone a day all this week.  Except for today.  And like the addict I am, my body is screaming for it's dopamine hit.  #Must.Bake.Cookies.

I did switch to Cheerios - it has the least amount of sugar grams of all the breakfast cereal's I looked at.  (Not counting the straight bran stuff...ew).  I think maybe if I stop putting sprinkles on top I may be on to something.

Our goal as an average human is something like 6 TEASPOONS of sugar daily.  There are about 58 grams of sugar in one Toblerone bar - every four grams is a teaspoon...calculator please...about 14 teaspoons of sugar.  Ugh.   Ignorance is sweet, sweet sugary bliss.  Excuse me while I drown my sorrows in the left-over chocolate frosting from Bill's birthday in April.  Girl's gotta have her fix...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Extraneous Materal

One of Bill's sisters dropped by yesterday to pick up some things we had ordered her from Amazon.  She looked fantastic - she had dropped by straight from work.  Her make-up was done great, her outfit chic and modern.  Did I mention she's a part-time aerobics instructor?  And instead of telling her how awesome she looked, all I could think was, 'I remember when I got dressed and wore make-up and looked nice for work....!'  I was jealous!  Ugh, worst emotion ever.  Especially since she is so nice, such a genuinely wonderful person.

I did the same thing at Starbucks earlier in the week.  I saw the barista busily working the milk-froth step in my latte process and I thought, that must be so great, to be so busy for hours you don't have time to think!  You don't have to tell me how ridiculous that thought was.  If she had a little one at home I am sure she would trade an eye or a leg or at least a pinkie toenail to be home with her baby if she could.  I get it.  I am so blessed to be able to stay home with Ellie, especially in this economy.  

And yet...and yet the hours of the days are filled with my heart and body being engaged but my mind being left to fend for itself.  After two years of not working (waiting for my social security number, then getting pregnant with Ellie) it isn't pretty in there.  Its dusty, messy, and whole sections are vacant.  Writing this blog is the only thing keeping my brain from being purged from my body as the lifeless, useless, extraneous material it is.  Pretty soon my white cells will start attacking it (what's this huge thing doing here?  It serves no purpose and it taking up a lot of real-estate that could be better used for heart muscles).

I try to talk to Bill about it and he says things like. 'Oh, you aren't busy enough, I have things for you to do.'  He glances at the carpet that hasn't been vacuumed in days (ok, ok weeks), his gaze floats up to the dishes in the sink, back down to her toys all over the floor.  I try to explain it isn't the busy I need, its the engagement.  It's the intellectual stimulation.  It's the SOCIAL stimulation - talking to adults is becoming a lost art.  I'll have to read books about how to end a conversation without once mentioning poop.  I'm just not sure how to do it anymore.  What?  You just closed a global program to install software in seventeen countries without a hitch?  Well, Let me tell you the day Ellie pooped ON THE CHANGE TABLE.  It was actually quite beautiful.  Like a little poop snow-cone with the little curl on the end.  I'm so proud.  

Who needs a brain when my heart, and her diapers, are this full? Besides, the brain is like a muscle, sure it's atrophied now but it will come back when I start using it again.  Right?  Right!?  And if not well, I'll always have my poop stories to fall back on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Grateful Mommie

Today I don't complain or bemoan my lack of natural mommie-skills.  Today, exactly one week from Christmas Eve, I will be thankful.  I am healthy.  (An amazing miracle all on its own).  When they told me I had Leukemia when I was 16 I thought briefly of that episode of Degrassi High where the girl had cancer and then died.  But then I thought, that could never happen to me.  This is just going to put a crimp in my plans, and give me something to write about when I'm older.  When I was diagnosed a second time and got shipped off to Toronto Sick Kids for a bone marrow transplant I thought, well if I'm going to die anyway I hope I get smucked by a bus before we get there.  Wouldn't want to go to all that trouble if I wasn't going to make it anyway.  But, amazingly, miraculously, I did make it.  Am still 'making it' just fine twenty years later.  I digress.  I talk about a lot of 'small' miracles if there are such a thing as 'small' miracles but me being here, just here on my computer in my pajama's, drinking tea and eating cookies, that's a HUGE miracle.

My family is healthy.  We don't think about it but we abound in small miracles every day.  Einstein said there was only one way to live, one as if EVERYTHING is a miracle, and another as if nothing is.  I choose to live in recognition of the thousands of miracles that surround us every day.  I'm alive and healthy, my family is alive and healthy.  I have a warm place to sleep, the ability to give my child what she needs to not only survive but thrive.  There are millions who can't claim that particular miracle for their little ones.  I was born and raised in a beautiful, free country, and when I married a wonderful man from another country, I got to move to another beautiful, free country.  These countries are places I can raise my daughter and know she will be just as encouraged on the soccer field as she is in math class.  Places she can grow up and literally be anything she wants, from an astronaut to a fighter pilot to the president of the United States.  I'm so grateful I can encourage any darn dream she has and know it is possible, and it may not even be that difficult, at least, not more difficult just because she is female.  I've got money in my pocket, enough to pay the bills.  I don't have to work right now, I can stay home and soak up these young years with her and we are ok.  Another miracle.
Bill and I have one more try on the IVF roulette wheel, a chance at yet another miracle.  I have so many miracles in my life sometimes I worry about when the other shoe will drop.  I also worry that I'm not giving back enough to this world I have been given a second chance at.  Wait, how did my 'thankful' day turn into a worry day again?  I'm eerily good at that.
So, thankful we have another chance to expand our little family when we are ready.  And if we don't get lucky a second time, I am thankful we had the chance in the first place.  Lastly, I wouldn't be me if I didn't also say I am very thankful for mom's double layer chocolate cake, sappy Hallmark movies, smutty romances, and a good glass of smooth red wine.  Oh, and very thankful my very good friend Sarah is pregnant right now!  Maybe you'll have a boy!  Maybe he'll fall in love with my Ellie!  Maybe they'll get married and live happily ever after and we'll be mothers-in-law together!  So fun!  Thank you world!  (Both the fantasy one I live in, and the real one I visit from time to time.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mostly Muddling Mommie Part Deux

I have no idea what I'm doing.  Really.  No clue.  I can't believe they just let us walk out of the hospital with this delicate, LIVING HUMAN BEING.  What is wrong with those people!?  I'm still breastfeeding at almost eight months.  People think I'm doing it for her future health (well yes) and to keep the weight off (well that is helping) but mostly, its because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING!  I'm terrified of having to figure out for myself what and how much to feed her!  At least when she's nursing I know my body is taking care of things and it's hard to muck that up as long as I stay away from wine and caffeine.  Small price to pay for peace of mind.

For example, she is now starting on solid foods.  I've been feeding her a little oatmeal cereal in the morning (rice cereal made her constipated for days no matter how little I mixed into her milk), then some mushed fruit after lunch and some pureed veggies after her 'supper' nursing session.  Sounds good right?  Well just for fun I was re-reading the oatmeal label, which said 'for infants under one mix with breastmilk or formula'  Ack!  How could I have missed that?  I've been mixing it with WATER, doing God knows what to her digestive system.  Her future math scores!  Why did they let me take her home!?  So I immediately mixed the oatmeal with formula. (I don't have any pumped handy, I know, I know, I should have five quarts frozen already!)  Well I don't.  Because pumping is annoying and time consuming and my boobs have had enough action for one day already without the extra pumping!  I digress. 

She wouldn't eat the oatmeal with the formula mixed in!  She scrunched up her little nose again and again and barely took the tiniest of nibbles.  Ach.  I will try again tomorrow, a little formula (or if I manage to pump some milk) and some water to see if the gradual switch-over works.  

Why do they make babies so complicated!?  I bought BABY Orajel the other day and after having used it (twice) I noticed it said 'for babies under two years old consult a physician.'  ARGGGG.  There's a tiny baby on the packaging!  What is wrong with you people.  So, feeling like I was being an overreactive mom I called the physician for 'permission' to use it.  They denied me such permission.  A choking hazard they said.  Better to give her Tylenol or Advil.  Really?  Better to give her DRUGS?  I have to say I wonder if those people are just covering law-suit type bases and are not really giving me the best advice for my baby.  In any case I have not used the Orajel since, or the drugs because, darn it, I'd like to not give my baby drugs unless she really needs it.  

Does this get any easier?  I have to think if I were back home in Canada this would all be a little less scary.  I feel like I'm muddling through in the dark.  I do have my husbands friends here (who are great by the way) who have had young kids in the not too distant past but they all work/are very busy and I hate to call them up to ask if water vs formula in her morning oatmeal will lower her IQ...and by the way is polyester blankets ok or should I stick to cotton?  Did you know polyester is a derivative of petroleum?  It's true.  That can't be good for babies?  

Ellie is calling me now, crying a little, chewing on that worrisome polyester blanket, the watery oatmeal in her tummy, and probably some poo in her diaper that is leaking a little because I still haven't figured out how to get the diaper on correctly.  Really, they should have a license for this mommie business.  I'd fail it the first time but when I DID pass, I'd know I was certified at least, instead of just feeling certifiable.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mostly Muddling Mommie

I was changing my seven-almost-eight month old this morning and every time she opened her mouth I was looking for teeth.  She’s been up from about 230am-500am the last three nights in a row and I am a barely functioning human in the base case - this period of sleeplessness has really pushed me over the edge.  My husband remarked yesterday morning, after I giggled for about five minutes about the Oregano being low, that he was seriously worried about my mental health and concerned for Ellie’s safety when he goes back to work on Monday.  Killjoy.
Anyway I realized when I was looking for teeth (all that fussiness and no reward - yet!) I noticed her nose had some boogers in it.  After I cleared those away I realized she was staring at me, in my eyes, and probably had been for the last five minutes I was staring at her gums, her nose, that flake of skin on her cheek - is her skin too dry?  I forced myself to focus on her.  I locked eyes with her.  She smiled.  I smiled back, glad I caught on to this moment of connection before it slipped away.  While I was worried about making sure she looked clean and healthy and perfect, I had almost missed an opportunity to connect with her, to communicate to her through eye contact and facial expression that she is loved, and seen.  Whoops.  Being a mom, a good mom, requires so much more of me than I am used to giving.  Giving a good nights sleep, giving solid love and attention when I am so fractured and frazzled I barely remember to give any to myself.  I have to remember to give love to myself.

I’m learning to try and not be the ‘perfect’ mom, because there’s no such thing and it’s the road to martyrdom and madness.  My husband, Bill, thinks I already give too much of myself.  ‘You don’t have a life outside the house.’  He pointed out helpfully last week.  I’m Canadian, living in northern Virginia.  We’ve been here two years - two years in which I was not able to work as we were waiting for my Social Security number from Immigration, and two years in which we tried IVF and were successful with Ellie, on the first try.  (Huzzah!)  I suspect he is being a little hard on me, which is to say I reacted by defensively yelling that I was a first time mom alone, all alone, in a strange new country where I have no opportunity to meet people my own age and no support network, and by the way you work too damn much.  (Cue tears).

It has never been easy for me to make lasting friendships - I like to think its because I’m too picky.  I’m not lonely, I’m just discriminating.  The truth is I’m shy, I’m more comfortable staying at home reading a good book than I am putting myself out there, braving the awkwardness of meeting new people, learning the ropes of getting to know strangers, being vulnerable, being open, those things are incredibly hard for me.  I am still good friends with a circle of people I went to elementary school with.  When I find what I like, I stick with it.  I’m not shy, I’m loyal.  That would have worked fine if I had stayed in the same province I was born in, unfortunately I married an American and moved hundreds (billions?) of miles away from my nice, safe support network of family and friends.  And in six months we are moving again, to Houston, Texas.  I’m actually excited about the move, and I tell myself, once I get there, then I will join groups and join a gym and get a part-time job and make friends, and stay out past seven on a weeknight and drive to places I’ve never been across a city I don’t know.  I will get out of my comfort zone of couch-snuggie-cheesy Hallmark movie-popcorn-slippers-Ellie and I in PJ’s all day because its too cold to go outside.  I will!  And now, I will go put on my snuggie over my PJ’s and grab Ellie from her playpen and go watch the Hallmark Christmas movie I recorded last night.  

Change comes slowly, if at all here in my own little Shire.